a critiQal film review The Skeleton Key (2005)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Caroline (Hudson), sick of the big city way of doing things, answers an ad for a hospice caretaker in a small town in Louisiana. Her patient, Ben (Hurt), had a stroke in the attic of the plantation he shares with his wife Violet (Rowlands). The longer Caroline stays, the more she uncovers about plantation's history. The more she learns, the more certain she is that something strange is going on in that house...but what?

568 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 50s)
  • ...despite an actually decent performance from Kate Hudson (!), this Key doesn't open any interesting doors.

My first real inkling of The Skeleton Key was a commercial promoting it’s DVD release date. Because I couldn’t remember seeing anything about it when it made it’s way through theaters, it wasn’t really on my must-see list to say the least. However, when the local Blockbuster® was out of other new releases like Madagascar (2005), I decided to rent it and see what, if anything I had missed.

Kate Hudson stars in The Skeleton Key. Right away, not really something to promote the movie to most viewers. After her horrible turns in films like How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, viewers – guys especially – aren’t going to be rushing out to see her latest flick. A role in a ghost story may change a few minds, as horror films seem to be rising in popularity in recent years (probably because of the success of recent entries like Saw (2004), Saw II (2005) and High Tension (2005)).

Thankfully, Kate does a decent job in The Skeleton Key, turning in one of her better performances to date. While she may be known for her romantic comedies, she might be better off sticking with off-beat movies like this one in the future. Looking back on some of her romantic roles, it may be her lack of chemistry with any of her on-screen costars that brings down the film more than anything else.

In The Skeleton Key, she doesn’t really need to worry about chemistry, focusing rather on being a helper and not a lover. It works well for her, hiding her flaws, while at the same time bringing out a tenderness in her that she’s never really showcased before on-screen – which, of course, makes it that much more intriguing when she is finally caught up in the web of horror the film tries it’s best to weave around her.

John Hurt and Gena Rowlands turn in decent performances in the film, but their characters, unfortunately, aren’t fleshed out enough for them to really let their acting abilities shine.

The Skeleton Key is eerily reminiscent of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s The Grudge (2004), and the films are very easily comparable to each other in many respects. True, The Grudge (2004) leaned more towards violence and gore while The Skeleton Key tends to keep both of those factors lower, while trying to amp up the fear factor.

As it turns out, however, both films do about the same in terms of building the tension, but the directing leaves a bit something to be desired in both cases, and viewers will walk away from both with at least some dissatisfaction.

Overall, The Skeleton Key loses to it’s counterpart The Grudge (2004), as the film fails to produce even one memorable scene. True, it’s lack of gore and extreme violence does help pull it away from the usual horror film, the director fails to produce anything else to help the film stand out from the crowd. Despite an actually decent performance by all involved – including Kate Hudson (!), The Skeleton Key doesn’t produce anything really worth checking out.

If you’re a fan of cookie-cutter horror films, then The Skeleton Key, like it’s predecessor The Grudge (2004), is right up your alley. If you’re looking for something truly original that will resonate long after the film has ended, however, then you should look elsewhere.

Sadly, this Skeleton Key doesn’t open any doors that haven’t been opened long before now.

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